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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Cluster housing: Great plan, but even greater delays

Naresh Kamath, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, March 04, 2013
First Published: 02:25 IST(4/3/2013) | Last Updated: 02:26 IST(4/3/2013)

Five years after it was mooted with the view of changing the face of this bustling metropolis, only five proposals have been cleared under the cluster redevelopment project. Of these, work has begun only in two projects; the others continue to wait for various clearances.

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Aimed at holistic development and integrated townships, the cluster scheme is meant for big redevelopment projects where the area to be redeveloped is a minimum of one acre. While the state, the civic body and experts say it is a good scheme as it ensures adequate open spaces and plans decent amenities for residents, the project has not gone very far. The biggest issue is government delay, say developers.

“There is policy paralysis with regard to the cluster scheme,” said Pranav Merchant, vice-president and director of Shreepati Group, which has five cluster projects awaiting nod since 2009. “The tenants are restless and all we are giving them are assurances that work will start soon.”

Unlike other redevelopment projects where only the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) needs to grant sanctions, the cluster scheme also requires a nod from the state’s urban development department (UDD). After that, a builder must get all relevant civic permissions.

Developers complain that files get struck in the UDD. BR Bhattad, director, Bhattad Group, is still awaiting the go-ahead from UDD for his 12-acre project at Sewri. “They have been looking at my project since 2009,” he said.

Another problem is with regard to consent from tenants and landlords. The scheme requires 70% of tenants and 100% of landlords to give their consent, which builders say is tough. Take the case of the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project, which covers 16.5 acres in Bhendi Bazaar. Some landlords have refused to give consent for the revamp. Local legislator Amin Patel, who supports the project, said: “We can’t let a few elements derail the scheme. If 90% people decide to go ahead, the rest should be forced to do so.”

“This is the best revamp scheme till date, but the government should offer more incentives to make it attractive,” said Nishant Agarwal, managing director, Nish Developers, which is the only cluster project where construction is going on. “As of now, individual redevelopments are more attractive for builders.”

Sachin Ahir, minister of state for housing, admits the scheme has not many takers and accepted that the UDD has been delaying projects. “We want to decentralise permissions so people don’t have to come to Mantralaya,” he said, adding that the state is reviewing the scheme. “A committee of secretaries is studying the scheme. We will incorporate changes suggested to boost the response to the scheme.”

Ahir claims the government can acquire buildings where an odd landlord or two is standing in the way of the project. “We will give all possible help.”


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